3D printing and injection molding have a lot in common. Both of these manufacturing processes are meant to make a designer’s vision a reality as painlessly as possible. Both 3D printing and injection molding are great at producing prototypes or replacement parts, among many things.
Manufacturing parts have traditionally been performed with injection molding. That process entails injecting heated material into a metal mold and once cooled the now solid object is ejected as a solid part. However, with the advancements in 3D printing and additive manufacturing technologies, this more modern manufacturing method can offer some advantages over injection molding.
1. Low entry cost. A desktop 3D printer and a filament supply will set you back exponentially less than an injection molding setup. The ongoing proliferation of open-source software and hardware in the community gives you a great support network of others who can help you along the way at little to no cost. 3D Printing capabilities allow you to order any quantity of manufactured pieces your project or business needs. With injection molding, the initial cost is extremely high and at an average of 1,000 parts, you will have a break-even point competitive to 3D Printing. If you’re looking to order and produce in smaller volume runs, 3D printing will be the most cost-effective and efficient solution with its low upfront overhead.
2. Easy to make changes. Because of its additive nature, you can spot and fix issues with your design while your model is being made. This makes it possible to avoid wasting an entire run of material on objects that all have the same flaw. 3D printers let you pause mid-process and continue in the same spot, which is perfect for spot adjustments that otherwise would make you start all over.
3. Easy to support complicated designs. 3D printing is fast and extremely convenient. There is really no comparison when you’re trying to design a part from scratch. With IronCAD CAD software solutions you can go from CAD design to the FDM machine in seconds. When looking to turn the idea in your head to an actual product or part, the complexity of your part can determine which manufacturing route to take. 3D printing’s process of adding layers on top of each other makes it perfect for creating intricate infrastructure. Parts and products that have complex or organic shapes, angles, and dimensions are best and most efficiently made using through 3D printing versus injection molding.
4. Ordering in Low Volumes. Having the ability to order more than a single unit is beneficial for anyone looking to develop, modify, and test a new or existing part or product. Injection molding multiple parts requires a separate mold for each, which is timely and costly. The speed and efficiency of additive manufacturing allow people to receive multiple pieces or versions faster than any traditional manufacturing would allow. Ordering in low volume allows for you to sample, test, and get your product to market or part in use quicker.
5. Allows for Multiple Product Changes. Injection molds on average cost $12,000 to have made, and when feedback comes in and product changes are needed you will find yourself spending extraordinary amounts of money and time creating new molds to account for these changes. With additive manufacturing this problem becomes obsolete. The quick turnaround time and low cost of 3D printing will allow you to test, collect feedback, identify and change as many variations needed for your final product. With 3D printing, there is no initial overhead to have a product made as there is with injection molding.
6. On-Demand Manufacturing vs Holding Large Inventory. Order what you need, as you need it! Startups, Inventors, and large companies all face inventory challenges, sitting on lots of dollars worth of inventory and products waiting to be sold. With additive manufacturing, you control your inventory levels and when inventory is needed it can be set up, printed, and in your hands in no time.